• Jennifer Bringle

The Elements

Water Creates Challenges And Opportunities For Casual Industry

Water. It Sustains Life. It Calms And Soothes Us. It Sets The Scene For Some Of Life’s Best Moments.

Water also can spell the death of outdoor furnishings and accessories. It can corrode metal, wood, wicker and even plastic furniture. It causes mold and mildew to grow in fabrics. It makes finishes fade and frames crack.

In this issue, we continue our Elements series with a look at water. We examine how innovations in materials, finishes and fabrics make today’s casual furnishings nearly waterproof—able to stand up to the rigors of rain, pools, sea spray and even ice.

We also look at how water enhances the outdoor experience via fountains and other water features. The tranquil sounds of water trickling, owing and cascading create a relaxing environment.

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Whether you’re reading this poolside, on the beach, or far from the water, we hope the next few pages will give you a new appreciation for one of the most important elements of outdoor life.

Of All The Elements, Water Arguably poses the greatest threat to outdoor furnishings and accessories.

Whether it’s in the form of rain, chlorinated pool water, saltwater via the ocean and ultra-popular saltwater pools, or even wintertime ice, water is consistently present in outdoor spaces.

And while most of the time that’s a good thing, it also can mean trouble for furniture and accessories that aren’t specially designed to resist the corrosive nature of water.

Over the past couple of decades, casual furnishings and fabric companies have introduced a host of innovations to combat this problem. Powder-coated finishes for metals, reticulated foam for cushions, super-durable plastics and even waterproof fabrics have changed the way outdoor furnishings respond to H20.

These advancements make casual furnishings more stylish—such as fully upholstered outdoor seating and frames that come in a rainbow of hues—as well as durable enough to withstand prolonged exposure to water and other elements.

Metal Mettle

Other than fabrics, metals usually sustain the most damage from exposure to water. Saltwater, in particular, poses the threat of rust and corrosion to metals that aren’t treated—most everyone has lost a cheap beach chair or two to the effects of ocean water.

A water-resistent woven material makes Woodard’s Mona collection perfect for a seaside patio. water
Gloster Wedge Gloster Wedge
Telescope’s Dune collection sits in eight inches of water, a trendy, new “ledge pool,” at the Valley View Casino. Constructed of marine grade polymer, these chaise longues are impervious to water. Dune

But the introduction of powder-coated finishing in the late ’60s changed all that for patio furnishings. Most o en used in aluminum outdoor furniture, powder-coat finishes allow manufacturers to add both durability and style to cast and extruded aluminum pieces.

Techniques can vary, but in general the finish is added to the aluminum as an ionized powder, which is then baked onto the metal through several curing cycles. A clear coat powder finish is applied to provide UV resistors.

This process not only makes the metal resistant to rain and sun damage, but it also allows manufacturers to add color, texture and depth.

“Some finishes may require another coat sprayed or brushed on, then brushed or wiped o to achieve a special color or design,” says Bill Herren, creative director, Woodard. “An example of this is the Rainforest wood-like finish, which is one of the 30 finishes that we offer.”

The way the aluminum furniture is made matters, too. Extruded aluminum tends to hold up be er in coastal environments than cast, due to the way it’s made using sheets of aluminum that are manipulated into a predetermined shape.

“With cast, there are microscopic holes on the surface. The finish can be adhesive, but saltwater can find its way into the surface, and then the powder coating chips off,” says Bill Van-derminden, executive vice president, Telescope Casual. “But extruded aluminum is totally fine.”

Gloster uses two types of metal: 304 grade stainless steel (Cloud, Wedge and Ryder) and aluminum (Azore, Luna and 180). The Cloud and Wedge lounge collections boast a brushed electro-polished finish.

“Electro-polishing combines chemicals and an electrical current, which carefully removes surface imperfections and contaminants from metal parts before applying a protective, corrosion-resistant coating,” says Eric Parsons, president, Gloster.

After testing involving 144 hours of high-intensity sea spray, some surface corrosion shows with uncoated stainlesss 304, which can be easily removed with steel wool. But with electro-polishing, after the same test, there are virtually no signs of surface corrosion.

Powerful Plastic

battle against water? Plastic. Particularly innovations such as the use of high-density polyethylene lumber and marine-grade polymer (MGP) to make furniture.

Located in Rhode Island— a state with both marine conditions and harsh winters— Seaside Casual knows a little something about dealing with water. The company, which began with Adirondack chairs made of mahogany, introduced its line of recycled plastic lumber, dubbed Envirowood, in 1999.

From classic Adirondacks that can bear the snow to the new MAD Fusion bar set that defies sea spray, Seaside Casual’s collections are known for withstanding the perils of moisture. Adirondacks
acer Turn to page 38 for information about cushion construction, and how today’s cushions are virtually waterproof.

“That’s really how we grew as a company, being on the Eastern Seaboard in a coastal environment—people were desperate for something that would defy the elements,” says Kate Carret, CEO, Seaside Casual. “Our furniture can be le out year-round in these environments. Not only does it stand up to the rain and salt spray, but you can leave it out in the snow, too.”

In the years since the introduction of Envirowood Adirondacks, Seaside Casual has expanded its offerings to include woven collections and even powder-coated aluminum with Envirowood slats.

“We introduced some woven wicker pieces into our collection—it’s made of woven HDPE wicker that also stands up to the elements and salt and water,” Carret says. “Even when we expand, we’ve built our reputation on being this bulletproof brand, and we have to maintain that.”

Telescope Casual led the charge in regard to MGP after seeing the growing popularity of plastic lumber furniture. The company wanted to find its own niche rather than just following the trend, so they turned to a particularly high density polyethylene material that was mostly used on the exteriors of yachts.

“Water is very invasive and gets into every nook and cranny. Finishes pop up, and then there’s mold and mildew,” Vanderminden says. “MGP is impervious to the elements, water, everything.”

Telescope pairs MGP with its durable sling to offer more varied options rich with color and texture—along with water-resistant durability.

“With sling, you get the color pop of a cushion, and a great deal of comfort, but it dries almost instantly— within a half hour of rain, it’s completely dry,” Vander-minden says. “Sling is a lot more forgiving in an outdoor environment.”

Both Carret and Vander-minden are seeing these plastic products being used in new, water-friendly ways.

“The trend for resorts is to have ‘ledge pools’ with chaise lounges in eight inches of water,” Vanderminden says. “Valley View Casino uses Telescope’s Dune collection of marine grade polymer chaise longues.”

While cheap patio chairs of the past might have pulled a Wicked Witch of the West in a downpour, today’s outdoor furnishings have what it takes to stand up to even the we est conditions.

Image of Jennifer BringleJennifer Bringle | Features Editor, Casual Living

Jennifer Bringle is the features editor of Casual Living. She previously served as an editor and reporter at a number of publications, including Kids Today, AAA Living Magazine, The News & Observer of Raleigh and Carolina Parent. Her work also has appeared in The Washington Post, Southern Living, Our State and The News & Record of Greensboro, and she is the author of several non-fiction books for middle and high school-aged children.  Contact her at jbringle@casualliving.com

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